Undiagnosed bipolar feels different for everyone.

Award-winning cinematographer Jake Polonsky BSC and independent film maker Caswell Coggins have collaborated on this short film portraying one individual’s experience of what undiagnosed bipolar can feel like.

Filmed in the iconic York Hall and sponsored by Fujifilm, 'Down not out' follows a young boxer sparring in the ring.

A film by Jake Polonsky and Caswell Coggins for social impact agency Into The Fold

Our aim with this film was to find a way to show metaphorically what undiagnosed bipolar can feel like. The problem we face with recognising bipolar is that it’s much harder to spot than unipolar depression. We’re all very familiar with the language of depression - lack of motivation, not wanting to get out of bed, feeling antisocial and so on. But the language of mania (and its less extreme cousin, hypomania) is much less familiar.

Why bipolar can be missed

In fact, it can go pretty much undetected because, when you stop feeling depressed in your bipolar cycle, hypomania feels ‘fine,’ if not good. You’re back to normal. You feel happy, like you’re somehow ‘back’ - you feel that there’s a point to life again. Your enthusiasm has come back, as well as a feeling that you’re now not just coping, you can excel. Your mind is buzzing with ideas and enthusiasm.

Going beyond fine

What is easy to miss is the point where you’ve gone beyond fine. You’re barely sleeping because your mind is so busy all night. You’re spending money on all the things you couldn’t even think about when you were laid low with sadness - from small hardly perceptible things to increasingly extravagant ones. It had simply never occurred to us that these things could be ‘symptoms.’ How could they be when you feel so great? And then before you know it, you’ve exhausted yourself into a collapse where once again you can hardly get out of bed.

A personal insight

Our insight into bipolar began a couple of years ago when one of our friends went through the diagnosis process, getting a confirmed diagnosis only last summer. Making this film felt like an opportunity to help others recognise the condition, as well as an opportunity for us to do something where we could engage artistically with our experiences.

Our aim

Our aim was to find a way of showing the confusion of mood cycling by following a boxer who goes into the ring for a fight; to show our hero’s progress through the fights as a series of highs and lows which represent her hypomanic and depressed cycle. We also wanted to show the confusion that can be experienced when you really don’t know when you’re going to feel up or down or why. The different opponents represent the circumstances that surround you when you’re ‘up’ or ‘down’, which you feel you can either overwhelm or which, when you feel weakened, can overwhelm you.

Our hope

If you’re watching this film here on Bipolar UK’s website, our hope is that it might help you identify these feelings in yourself, or in someone you are close to. Once bipolar has been recognised and diagnosed, it is possible to get on with the next stage – managing and understanding it, helping ourselves or our loved ones find a way to navigate through it and get on with life, without feeling at the mercy of something we don’t understand.

Could it be bipolar?

If you’re wondering if you or someone you know could have bipolar, find out what steps you can take here

Film Credits

Jake Polonsky BSC is known for his cinematography on the Netflix TV series Black Mirror as well as directing Showtime’s Billions.

Caswell Coggins is an independent film maker directing film, TV advertising and branded content for clients such as NatWest, BBC and Sky. An additional focus of his work is creating visual representations of social and individual marginalisation.